SD entrepreneurs use alfalfa to make feed cubes for horses
One of the principles to being a successful entrepreneur is creating a product or service that is unique. That is exactly what Dale Anderson did when he set out to make compressed feed cubes, known as cake, in his manufacturing plant east of Oral, S.D.
In the marketing world this is called value-added agriculture, as when a crop is changed into a product preferred by certain consumers. Working with him are Tom White, marketing manager, and Jackson Cunningham, who operates the plant.
Anderson owns farms near Oral where alfalfa hay is raised. The hay he uses for cubing is baled much drier than normal because controlling the moisture content is necessary for good compaction and adherence. “You have to know the moisture content and that makes all the difference in the world. If the hay is very dry and you don’t add moisture, the cubes will fall apart,” Anderson said. “But you have to be careful to not add too much water, which will also caused the cubes to disintegrate.”
The company, Hills Livestock Feed, LLC, currently manufactures two types of products: straight alfalfa cubes and alfalfa with yellow field peas, which are cracked and ground, then mixed with the alfalfa. According to the feed analysis run by Ward Laboratories the peas get the protein up to at least 23 percent and increases the net energy. Some peas are locally grown and this year two Oral farmers, Jerry Wyatt and Levi Klippenstein raised them. Additional peas come from the Platte Valley.
“Our cake plant is the only one in South Dakota that cubes straight alfalfa,” Anderson said. “Our equipment is made by Warren & Baerg Manufacturing and the nearest cake plants with the same machines are in Miles City, Mont., and Riverton, Wyo. We are working with a mineral company that wants to put a mineral pack into our cake, which would give us a third product to sell.”
Cubing or densification makes feeding more convenient and there is zero waste. Instead of dealing with round bales that weigh around 1,400 pounds, the cubes are easily managed. The 1-1/8-inch-round cubes yield the same nutrition as the big bales. The cubes come in 1-ton bags, and 24 bags make up a truckload. It can also be delivered in bulk, up to 25 tons, and elevated into a feed hopper. Most of the alfalfa cubes go to horse owners, including truckloads that have gone to Oklahoma and Texas.
A vacuum cleaner system takes care of the dust, which is run back through the processors into the cake. White said. “We also screen the fines while loading a truck or bags, and the fines go back into the cubing system and are incorporated into the cubes. The fines are the really good stuff.”
The process starts with the dry bales as they come in on a conveyer belt and go into a grinder. A metering bin shows exactly how much hay is being used. Each motor in the plant has variable speeds. The binder, bentonite, is then added. It all comes up the chute into the mixing chamber, where the addition of water is regulated. The mixture is carried across and drops down into the header and is pushed through the dies. The last step is when the cubes are run through a cooler. At that point the product is ready to go onto a truck. It takes 35 minutes for the complete process from hay to cube. With the overhead conveyer, cubes can be moved to either end of the building. One hundred tons can fit in each end and that equals four semi-loads. Depending upon how it is cubing, up to 8 tons per hour can be produced although 6 tons is a general run.
For more information on these value-added products, email Tom White at WhiteRanchLLC@gmail.com or phone him at (605) 890-1876.❖